Every generation has its defining moment. It was 2001/11 for my generation.
Below are my thoughts on 9/11/2001. It was Tuesday.
My Senior year at Staten Island Technical High School was about twenty miles away from the ground zero. It was about a week into our school year. My seat was in the 2nd Period A.P. of Ms. Endriss. I was in Ms. Endriss’s 2nd Period A.P. Political Science class. The class was going through NYC Public School’s discipline policy and were discussing which weapons are prohibited in schools. Brass knuckles is a no-no. The classroom was late when a student entered. The student had heard that the World Trade Center had been hit by a Cessna aircraft. My classmate, a girl of my age, exclaimed her father was a World Trade Center worker. Her eyes were filled with fear, and I was able to see it even though we had no idea what was happening. She wanted to reach her dad. My cell phone was my only one, so I gave it to her. The call did not go through–he worked on one of the upper floors of the tower, and passed away.
The second period was over, and we were apprehensive. I tried to access the news by logging onto my computer. One friend suggested that I check MTV.com to get the latest news. The reports at that time were vague and nobody knew the truth. We moved on to the third period A.P. Calculus was with Mr. Curry. Someone informed us at that moment that the Cessna was actually a passenger plane. All of us were getting anxious and we didn’t know what was happening. One student, later on in class, said that another plane had crashed into the tower. Also, we heard of an explosion at Pentagon. It was obvious that this wasn’t an accident.
It was the first time I left the class. I walked to the library and saw a T.V. As I was about to enter the library, the first tower fell. It was amazing. The scene unfolded before me and I was completely stunned. When the tower crashed, my phone was dead. Although I couldn’t call my mother in Staten Island I was able to reach my father who worked in Long Island. While long distance calls worked, local calls did not work. My dad said to me that it was life-altering and that he didn’t know what the outcome would be. According to TV reports, 15 aircraft were taken by hijackers and left unaccounted for.
The school counselor had set up a room for students to meet and talk by lunchtime. It was common to see student after student with a friend or family member who had worked at the World Trade Center. Staten Island is home to many firefighters and officers. Many of those who died were Staten Island residents, which is tragic. How could we possibly tell the students that?
The day became blurred after that. Although I didn’t see the collapse, I heard that it had happened to the second tower. The Capitol was filled with people singing God Bless America. My life was never so scary. The bus took me home that evening. New York City had its public bus service, although it was still in operation. I also remember that the driver did not collect fares. On the bus, people were talking about the imminent war (against whom, no one knew) and the imminent draft. Some said that the draft was not applicable to students.
It was September 12, 2001 when I woke up to this terrible smell. I was reminded of barbecued flesh when the air smelled pungent. I went to school that morning, and attendance was low. All of my classes were discussing war. I wanted to know if the US could use nuclear weapons. My teacher explained that carpet bombing–a phrase I had never heard of–could wreak plenty of damage in Afghanistan. Later that week students began making sandwiches for the relief workers, and collecting goods to donate to the relief effort.
Staten Island allowed me to view the fiery Ground Zero from my window. It was incredible. It was so empty. The Skyline is a sight that I’ve seen many times. I still have this strange feeling when I see it. We were all also terrified every time an airplane flew overhead. The fear lasted several months.
Staten Island residents waited patiently for their loved ones, even weeks or months, after the attacks. Many of the patients who were still alive were not able to be identified because they had been so severely burned. They prayed to see these people return soon. A woman, her husband being a firefighter, spent months waiting outside her house every night. Every night she lit a candle and put it in her windows. She later placed a candle in her window. He didn’t return home. Some others were waiting to see the remains of their loved one. Many were never identified.
A gas mask I purchased from eBay was kept in my car for fear of a biological weapons attack. It was almost impossible to breathe after I put it on one time. For an attack with anthrax, I was looking for Cipro.
The events of September 11, 2001 are hard to describe. When I looked back at that day when I was only 17 years old I saw that I needed to mature quickly. We were in a completely new world.
Never forget. Ever.